Anil Padmanabhan has been working as a journalist for the last 27 years. He has served as the India Today Chief of Bureau in New York. He is presently the Deputy Managing Editor at Mint, the business daily from the Hindustan Times Group. Padmanabhan also writes weekly columns. Kalpana Chawla: A Life was his debut novel.


No matter what the circumstances, you can indeed follow your dreams.

Kalpana Chawla: A Life is a well-researched biography written by Anil Padmanabhan. It describes the incredible life story of one of the most celebrated astronauts worldwide, Kalpana Chawla. The story practically spans the entire lifetime Kalpana Chawla, right from her student life in Karnal to her journey to the stars and beyond. The plot beautifully explores a life spent across different continents and among different cultures.

The book starts with a prologue describing the unfortunate incident of the disintegration of the Columbia space shuttle on February 1, 2003. The disaster had claimed the lives of six other crew members along with Kalpana’s. Even after so many years, reading about the incident can make the most unsympathetic of readers feel sorry for the promising astronaut.

The author does not delve too much into the details of Kalpana’s life, given that this is a fairly short biography. Instead, he highlights the interesting events leading up to her voyage in space. Padmanabhan has presented a memorable account of a career that shaped Kalpana’s personality and helped her achieve her goals.

Kalpana was born into a refugee family that had left the riot-ravaged Gujranwala city in Pakistan for Karnal, in search of a better life. She was the fourth child in the family of Banarasi Lal and Sanjyoti Chawla. Her family was highly spiritual and consumed a vegetarian diet, a habit which Kalpana continued even during her life in the US and at the International Space Center.

Although her father had established himself as a successful businessman by the time Kalpana was born, a hard-working and disciplined attitude was inculcated into the four siblings from a very young age. Her family played a central role in instilling in her the belief that, no matter what the circumstances, dreams could be followed and fulfilled. Her mother was a pillar of strength and supported her in every step she took to accomplish her goals and break the glass ceiling.

Kalpana was fascinated with flying and airplanes from her school days. It was in her eleventh grade that she had taken the decision to pursue aerospace engineering. Even when others persuaded her to opt for other, seemingly more lucrative options such as electrical or mechanical engineering, she had her eyes and heart set on aerospace engineering. She even left a lucrative job in the Silicon Valley to undergo the rigorous grind of astronaut training.Β 

Kalpana Chawla always believed in doing what one truly loves. In fact, not only did she follow her heart during her illustrious life, but even died while serving as an astronaut.

Ameya Rating:

Kalpana Chawla: A Life contains all of 94 pages, which make it an interesting read for kids who either love biographies or would like to read one. It provides interesting glimpses into the life of Kalpana Chawla and her awe-inspiring journey from Karnal to the Columbia space shuttle. It is an inspiring book written in plain, easy-to-follow language. We highly recommend reading it out to your children to teach them that grit, determination and perseverance are all one needs to fulfill their dreams.

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